What you eat affects your mood

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 12 February, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 12 February, 2008, 12:00am

With a bit of planning, the food you choose can keep you happy as well as healthy

Do you eat more 'comfort' foods when you're feeling down? If so, you're not alone, according to research from Cornell University in the US.

The study, entitled Food and mood connection: The sad are twice as likely to eat comfort food, was conducted by professors Brian Wansink, John S. Dyson and colleagues.

Thirty-eight members of staff were shown either a funny movie or a sad one. They were offered seedless grapes and hot, buttered, salty popcorn.

Those who watched the sad film ate 36 per cent more popcorn than those who watched the funny one, who ate popcorn and grapes.

Professor Wansink believes that happy people want to be happy in the short term, but think about long-term consequences and so eat healthier comfort foods. People who are unhappy want to jumpstart their way out of sadness. They indulge in snacks which taste good rather think about long-term health.

Bottom line: think about the nutritional value of foods before you indulge.

Does eating fish make you happy?

Mums always tell us to eat fish because it makes us smart. But a recent scientific study shows that fish may also improve our mood.

Research from the University of Pittsburgh, US, showed that people who had lower amounts of omega-3 fats were more likely to be pessimistic about life or to have a negative outlook.

Individuals with higher levels of omega 3 fats were less likely to be depressed and were more easily pleased. Our brain is made up of fats, in particular omega-3 fats. Omega-3 fats are essential for brain functions and keeping depression at bay.

Where can you find omega-3 fats?

Health experts recommend about 1-2g of omega-3 fats a day. Fish, particularly oily fish such as salmon, tuna, mackerel, sardines and trout, contain omega-3 fats.

However, you need to be careful. Some fish, such as albacore tuna, shark and swordfish, contain large amounts of mercury, which can be harmful in large amounts.

The US Food and Drug Administration suggests up to two 170g servings a week of oily fish which is low in mercury but high in omega-3 fats.

If you don't like oily fish, omega-3 fats can also be found in soybean and canola (rapeseed) oils, flaxseed, flaxseed oil, pumpkin seeds, walnuts, tofu and green, leafy vegetables.